I am going to rant because I need to get this off my chest. It has been going on since January and I have kept it inside because I keep thinking I am ungrateful. I am not. This is a total and complete respect issue. And today is the breaking point.
In many ten plus years of working for this company, I was classified as an exempt employee. This was based on my job duties. It meant that I could come and go as I pleased and have a bit of flexibility to my hours. It also meant that I could bring work home on the weekends and get caught up. Granted It was win-win all around. And let me emphasize, it was a respect thing for me. They respected me enough to classify me as a professional.
A few years ago we had a complete review and overhaul of our positions. At that time, many employees were reclassified from exempt to non-exempt based on job descriptions and duties. It made some sense. We had employees who were simply scanning documents into files classified as professional exempt. It had been over 20 years since the positions were last examined. My position passed and remained as exempt. Interestingly, it was also determined at that time that my position and job duties qualified me for the management bonus program. Cool. Not something I expected or wanted. But it made me work harder. Again – win/win.
Last year (November or so), the company decided, once again, to check classifications. The previous time this was done, the review was done by internal personnel. This time, it was shipped off to some big name law firm specializing in employment law with absolutely no connection or understanding of my company. Supervisors were interviewed on positions but employees were not. And then decisions were made. Yep – you guessed it – I was bumped to non-exempt and told that I no longer qualified as “professional” under the Fair Labor Standards Act. After much arguing with my boss and HR (and a lot of research on my part showing them how wrong they were), my boss said that I should just accept it because it was not going to change. He then said that I would benefit because I would be paid overtime so I would make more money. It is not about the money, I said. It is about respect.
Come to find out, the junior associate at the law firm made the determinations based on job titles and what was expected of that job title in the normal world as opposed to the actual duties. There is someone in a different department whose sole responsibility is to write checks. She does nothing but write checks. But because she has been here since the beginning of time, someone gave her the title “Manager” a few years ago. She was reclassified from non-exempt to exempt. Huh? I asked my boss what exactly does the title “paralegal” mean that would imply I am not a professional. His response “HR feels that your job description does not require that you exercise independent judgment and decision making.” My reaction and the reasons why they are so totally wrong it is not even in the same universe as correct could make a book (and I am getting lengthy here). Suffice it to say, for the 3 or 4 months following this decision, I ran to my boss for every single decision. His inbox would contain at least 75 emails from me in one day whereas normally it contained 30 to 40. He finally got the picture but never did anything to change it.
Why does this matter? Well, a few months ago, I was told that I needed to watch my overtime hours as it was putting us over budget. They never realized just how much time I worked. Then I was told that my travel time to other cities would only be compensated for the time spent in the plane or airport if it was outside of work hours unless I was working. So the 6 hour plane ride to the West Coast and the 3 hour delay is not counted. I got in to the hotel at 3:00 a.m. but did not get compensated for it.
The problem is that if I were exempt, yes, I would not get compensated for it as well but I would get some flex time off. When I returned from that trip with two other employees who were classified as exempt, they went home for the day without penalty. I had to come in the office for 4 more hours or lose the time.
And then today, I decided that I am completely frustrated with our Assistant General Counsel and his hours. The day starts at 8:30. He rolls in around 9:30 or so. Then he just took a 2 hour lunch. The boss will argue that he stays late. But, I know for a fact that he leaves around 6:00 so there is really no time made up. I have to go to the dentist tomorrow and will come in 1 ˝ hours early just so I can leave the office for my appointment and not be docked time. He had a dental appointment last week and was gone 3 hours because he went home and decided to eat lunch as well. The boss will argue that exempt employees have to take half-day PTO time while I can take 15 minute incriments. But when the exempt employees are not being docked for taking an hour here and there and only take the PTO time when they plan on leaving at noon for the day, then there is no validity to that argument.
I am just completely angry and hurt by the whole situation. I am sure that my ego has been bruised as well. I accept that. But, darn it, I was a professional for 10 years and now I am not even though my job duties are more “professional” then they were for the past 10 years. And my boss did not argue on my behalf. I am just really having trouble getting over this one and thought I would vent for awhile. No need to respond. I feel better already.
By the way, what is the statute of limitations for a wage action? I figure if they piss me off enough I will file for at least part of the time I was considered exempt when I really was not.